Starting with design

This fall I decided to skip to chapter 11 in Stats, Modeling the World 4e and start my year with data collection. I made this choice for two reasons. Firstly, my AP Instructional Planning Report showed that my students couldn't describe a bias correctly. This was my lowest score. Secondly, I have a number of friends who swear that this is the best way to start the year. They testify that this topic starts the year at the right place conceptually and it requires the high level of clear communication that the course requires throughout.

[There is another advantage to starting with design. I'm getting the worst, most time-consuming grading of the year done in August. When I have the most energy. But that's a very selfish motivation.]

I started the year with lots of reading from SMW4e. I wanted kids to realize that their book is very readable and is a useful resource. We would read short passages in class and frequently consult the vocabulary sections at the end of each chapter. I can already see that this paying some dividends, as students have commented about how well the text is written. I have also seen students consulting the book in chapter two, with no prompting from me. They have realized that this is a useful and amazing resource.

I used the "Show Me the Money" activity from the latest CB module. If you haven't attended a CB workshop recently, I'm afraid that there is no way to share this resource at this time. It's a great activity where students try to guess the mean gross from the 2011 movie box office. Then students take a convenience sample (the movies they watched), a SRS and a stratified sample. The bias and the variability of these samples is discussed and contrasted. Doug Tyson did a great job writing this module.

I did a number of predictable practices: discussions, a quiz, a crossword, a small experiment (heart rate change drinking caffeinated soda vs. not [but this was on an insane minimum day and was more fun than learning]). I enjoyed using the Just Checking feature of SMW4e, as well as the practice exam with multiple choice items. 

My best new idea of the unit was this document. We took a group test (groups of 4, solving 4 problems together). Predictably, after the assessment (which is meant to be formative, but does count for a small grade), I was brain-storming how to help them write more clearly. I realized they needed a side-by-side comparison of what they said vs. what they should say. I'm still grading their first test, but it appears that for some students this document helped.

Students definitely had abnormally high anxiety about these introductory chapters. I don't know how much that is my fault. The wording of the rubrics is picky and communicating these complicated concepts is challenging. And my ability to adequately spiral these topics so that my jump-start can result in deeper learning remains to be determined. I guess I won't really know until I see the AP scores next July.